Maria Remembers: Things have changed, but I’m still ‘tied’ to Mama

Maria Remembers - Maria Capolarella-Montante

Mother’s Day is a special day to honor and pay tribute to our mothers. I agonized about this column because I wanted to do justice to our living mothers and our mothers living in God’s house who are in our hearts and minds forever.

Recently a friend and I had a conversation about aprons. Our mothers’ aprons, to be exact. That conversation reactivated in my mind the idiom, “Tied to Mother’s apron strings.”

It’s an idiom intended for those who are or were exceptionally close to their mother and how others perceived those who seemed to be reluctant to veer from Mother’s side. I happen to like the phrase because I know being tied to Mama’s apron strings means love.

The apron strings in the phrase are invisible, and those of us bonded with our mothers know what they signify. The strings mean patience, kindness, understanding, and security. The strings are associated with the good food Mama cooked.

Also, they are the tears wiped away when feeling sad or scared; hugs just because or when something in the night was frightening; cross looks received when they were warranted; and cuts and gashes that were cleaned, bandaged and kissed to make better.

The strings bring to mind the many hours of sacrifices made when, on a Monday morning, she set the boilers on the stove to heat water to wash the family laundry. It was a back-breaking chore that took most of the day because there was no automatic washer with a dial to turn.

Her apron strings remind me of the many loaves of bread she baked. Not the kind taken out of the freezer and popped in the oven. Cups and cups of flour, water and yeast were used to make 12 or 13 loaves of bread to last the week. The aroma of the freshly baked bread coming out of the oven was like being in heaven.

Those apron strings have many meanings and memories. Mama sewed all her aprons and many for me as well. My generation did not find the apron necessary attire and so they were stored in a box in the attic.

I climbed the attic stairs and knew exactly where to find them. Lifting the lid, memories came flowing back. I visualized Mama at her Singer pedal sewing machine creating all the different styles in various materials.

The apron I especially remembered and loved was sitting right on top. It is white organdy with a black floral trim around the whole skirt with a pocket trimmed in lace. It ties in the back in a large fluffy bow. This apron, now yellowed with age, was worn over dress clothes for a special occasion.

Emptying the contents of the box, I found several organdy aprons, cotton aprons with cherries and strawberries, a black and white gingham print, a yellow chintz with a slit and pocket on the side containing a pot holder, two pleated pink aprons of the same style with different trims, and a royal blue dotted Swiss trimmed in lace.

What was most touching were the two aprons made from leftover material from dresses that Mama had sewed for me. I remember the style of both dresses worn a lifetime ago.

There is a new kind of apron on the market today worn by Mom and Dad. It reminds me of a butcher’s apron. A single, almost square piece of material with a bib front, widening at the waist line to cover the hips down to the knees with a string tie crisscrossing in the back and tying in the front. This apron is big, wide and strong to keep precious ones “tied to the family’s apron strings.”

Mothers, grandmothers, and godmothers, today is your day to be remembered. It is a day to discard the apron and be pampered. Tomorrow, may you wear the invisible apron strings to keep your children safe in love.

Maria Remembers

Maria Capolarella-Montante

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or email

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or email

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